What it means to be modern: a messy history of mass-media revivals in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 1875-1920




Noddings, Timothy R.

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American historians tend to oppose “modernity” and “modern religion” to pre-modern and “traditional” faith, a binary that has privileged certain religious forms and displays of sacredness over others. This thesis challenges the structuring dichotomy of modernity by arguing that Protestant evangelical revivals were sites on which “modernity” was made, defined, contested, and remade at the end of the nineteenth century. Examining the major revivals of Dwight Moody and Billy Sunday, among others, it rejects grand narratives and insists on understanding revival campaigns as existing in a braided relationship with the “secular” public sphere: one player in a symbolic marketplace where various partisans attempted to demonstrate that they were uniquely “modern.” This “modernity” was constructed through multiple categories of gender, age, class, ethnicity, and race, linking claims of “modernity” to common-sense masculinity, idealized family roles, and Anglo-Saxon identity as site upon which “Americanness” was made.



modernity, religion, fundamentalism, science, evangelicalism, consumeriism, media, advertising, revivals